Happy ending for young Mull otters
WHEN a Mull resident opened his door to find a visitor holding ‘a bundle of fluff’ a year ago, neither he nor the visitor knew what to do.
It was an abandoned otter cub – floppy, still, eyes closed. But he knew who to ask – Jane Stevens of the Mull Otter Group (MOG).
Jane quickly arrived with rehydration fluid which she fed to the cub, drop by drop. An hour later her eyes opened and her head lifted.
At that stage, Jane decided the seven-week-old cub (later named Gribun) could be moved. For a week, Jane nursed the little creature back to strength with regular feeds of puppy milk supplement, and after two days with trout, which Gribun ‘wolfed down’.
Colin Seddon, the SSPCA’s wildlife centre manager, continued the youngster’s care at Fishcross where another otter cub had been rescued.
He said: ‘Luckily, both otters were around eight weeks old, so we were able to introduce them to each other and allow them to develop together. It’s important to rear otter cubs in groups as they depend on play and interaction with their own kind to learn life skills.’
By February this year, the cubs were around a year old: about the age at which they normally would be starting to become independent of their mothers.
Gribun and her friend Rush were becoming increasingly frustrated in the confines of their pens and were more than ready to return to the wild.
It was decided to do a soft release, which involved freeing the otters at a secret sheltered piece of remote coastline, along with artificial holts and supplementary food put out daily.
MOG’s Nigel Burch checked the area to make sure they were not released on to another otter’s territory. As both are female, a dog otter would accept them. The frequency of feeds has since been reduced gradually as warmer seas mean increased fish stocks and because careful monitoring shows the otters are capable of feeding themselves. Tried and tested, this method has been highly successful in Shetland.
Jane said: ‘The otters were quietly released one at a time on the beach. Rush raced across the beach, made a beeline for some sheds and hid under some crates. She was likely to stay there until we all cleared off, so we left her a fish.
‘Gribun was released close to the water. She dived straight in and swam to some rocks in the distance, where she remained for a while and then we lost sight of her.’
Nigel and Jane have since visited the site several times and have been delighted to see (from a very good distance) the otters out at sea, fishing and going to rocks to consume large fish, saying: ‘So we know they are hunting for themselves, swimming, fishing, chattering together and generally looking like happy otters. Our camera trap showed them taking the fish left for them.
‘They are looking extremely healthy and exhibiting normal otter behaviour. Such a great finish to a long journey. It makes Mull Otter Group’s work so worthwhile.’
The return to the wild could only work with the strong sup- port of dedicated locals, willing to take the time to discreetly monitor and to put out fresh fish daily over a substantial period of time. Obviously they cannot be named, in order to safeguard the otters.
Thanks for the fish to the Tiroran Hotel, Lucie Howard, Bob Hastie, Sheila Barnard, Ardmore Fish, Oban Sea Life Centre, Nic Davies (Tobermory Otter Fund) and the SSPCA.
To watch film of the two otters and for further updates, visit www.mullottergroup.co.uk or the Mull Otter Group Facebook page.
Please remember to always seek informed advice before attempting to rescue any injured or ‘lost’ wild animal.
A delighted Gribun makes a beeline for the sea.